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According to one government estimate, Americans spend an average of more than $600 a year on car repairs. In these tight financial times, many car owners are responding by keeping their cars longer and trying to do as much of the repair work themselves as they can. In fact, 2012 represented a high water mark in the average length of ownership for new cars (71 months) and used cars (50 months) in the United States.
The problem is that newer, technology-infused models have made do-it-yourself repair jobs harder to accomplish than ever. These days, depending on the model you drive, you may need specialized tools just to change the spark plugs on your car. On the other hand, armed with a good instructions manual, a savvy do-it-yourselfer (DIYer) can tackle many tasks.
First, here are four crucial questions you should ask yourself before tackling any DIY car repair.
- How comfortable am I with my knowledge of cars and car repair? You should weigh saving a few dollars, or even a few hundred dollars, on DIY auto repairs against your comfort level with your repair skills and your safety. You owe yourself an honest answer before tackling such jobs as replacing your brake pads, which is relatively easy for experienced DIYers, but tricky if you’re not.
- Do I really have the tools needed to do the job right? If you’ve ever observed even the most modest car repair shop, you have seen all the sophisticated diagnostic computers and specialized tools they have. Your garage is almost certainly not similarly outfitted, and unless you do a lot of repair work, it’s probably not worth investing in those tools. So take a hard look at the tools you’ll need for that particular job.
- Does this repair involve the structural integrity of the car’s body? Just as a DIY home handyman shouldn’t be knocking down any load-bearing walls, you shouldn’t be messing with the structural integrity of your car. If you’re not sure of whether a particular DIY repair job threatens that integrity, you probably shouldn’t be tackling it yourself.
- Will doing the repair myself take so long that I’ll defeat the purpose? Remember: time is money. Sure, it’s nice to save some money wherever possible by doing car repairs yourself. But if a professional mechanic can handle something in an hour that takes you an entire weekend, have you really saved your most precious resources? This online tool can help you estimate how much a professional repair will cost.
While you’re at it, you might want to check with your insurance company to see if you’re covered for any repairs that don’t turn out quite as they were intended. Just go online to get the right vehicle insurance quotes to give you the peace of mind you need.